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St John’s West Toronto reaches out to GLBTQ community

St John’s West Toronto reaches out to GLBTQ community

They are calling it the queer Eucharist. It is sparsely attended some evenings, with about a dozen folks sometimes. The service is the response of the parish priest, the Revd Samantha Caravan. Last fall she suggested the service to her parish to reach out to folks who have felt alienated by the Church’s historic opposition to sexual minorities. The congregation as a whole was in favor, however individual GLBT folk who were already members of the parish were hesitant. Some were turned off by calling it a queer Eucharist because the word has a lot of baggage, especially for older GLBTQ folk, even though many in the younger age groups have embraced the term. Others felt there was no need for a separate Eucharist for GLBTQ people. But their pastor eventually won them over and the parish began holding the Eucharist monthly starting last SEP.

The parish had also started reaching out to the GLBTQ community a year earlier. The parish was awarded a grant from the diocese that allowed it to hire a youth minister. Meagh Culkeen was hired and began in late fall 20114. The parish is located in a neighborhood with lots of high school aged youth. Part of the youth minister’s task was to reach out specifically to GLBTQ youth in the area. Meagh, who prefers the personal pronoun they, began by visiting local gay-straight organizations in the nearby schools and then organizing events at the parish building. In the near future they will have a parish-based drop-in center for youth with no particular place to be after school.

Hiltz Queer Eucharist
The Most Revd Fred Hiltz speaking at an event following the queer Eucharist at St John’s West Toronto. Click to enlarge.

The queer Eucharist that followed the Primates’ Meeting in JAN was visited by the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), the Most Revd Fred Hiltz. +Fred gave a presentation after the Eucharist which was followed by an hour of questions & answers. The discussion was lively and was moderated by the Revd Canon Douglas Graydon, the associate priest at St John’s West Toronto and who is married to a man. Archbishop Hiltz was scheduled to speak after the queer Eucharist later in the year, but requested to visit earlier after the events of the Primates’ Meeting.

He reported on the Primates’ Meeting and also where the ACoC was with regard to same gender marriage. Next year, the General Synod of the ACoC is scheduled to entertain a motion in favor of altering the marriage canon of the national church to allow same gender marriage. Should the motion be passed in 2016, it would require an additional affirmative vote at the following General Synod in 2019 to become church law.

One question asked by one of the 150+ participants at the meeting was regarding the primate’s personal feelings regarding GLBTQ folk and the church, in general, and same gender marriage in the church, in particular. +Fred shared that his personal beliefs were for inclusion and that he vocally supported GLBTQ folks and their place in the church, their relationships and same gender marriages fully celebrated by their communities faith. He also shared that he was restrained at this moment by his position, that as primate of the ACoC and the president of the General Synod, he was limited to what he could say on behalf of the ACoC.

Following the event, Canon Greydon expressed his happiness with the success of the evening with the primate. He also praised +Fred for his candor and vulnerability as folks asked questions. The Canon also pointed out that the primate would be open to visiting with more GLBTQ groups around the church for similar events, but that folks needed to reach out and invite him, he can’t invite himself!

The images are from the Anglican Journal.
Read more about the queer Eucharists and the ACoC primate’s visit to St Johns here and here.


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Prof. Christopher Seitz

Sounds like a lot of pain.

And, a lot of free time to ventilate on blogs.

I wonder if these two realities combine for healing? I doubt it.

Bless you in your present struggles. Prayers for a way forward God endorses and helps to bring healing.

Gary Paul Gilbert

“Queer” dates from the eighties, at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, when the government did nothing and said little about gay men dying. Ronald Reagan took until 1985 to give a speech on AIDS and that was largely because Elizabeth Taylor asked him to. His speech flopped. His press secretary, Larry Speakes, laughed when asked by the press about people dying from the disease. ( or
Some ACT UP activists probably would be happy the term still gives offense. This was before the rise of corporate LGBT activists, who made that in-your-face activism seem dated. Today there are gay lobbyists who wear thousand-dollar suits and socialize with the Washington elites.

The use of “queer” also represents the shift from women’s studies to gender studies and African-American studies to race studies. Papers are now commonly written on the social construction of masculinity, heterosexuality, and whiteness.

But using terms to identify oneself is always problematic. A professor of mine says she plays the role of woman, knowing what her colleagues and the deans will accept from her.

French feminism, another influence on the academy, tended to question the notion of Woman. Psychoanalyst and theorist Julia Kristeva said a long time ago “La femme, ce n’est jamais ça” ‘Woman is never that.’ Her rival Jacques Lacan said, “La femme n’existe pas” ‘woman does not exist.’ Woman is a fantasy formation. Judith Butler, in her classic book Gender Trouble, sketched out a postmodern feminism which posits woman as a performative.

I think “queer” is still a useful term but I do not support the use of labels to define people, even though Jacques Lacan, said it was inevitable people will use such terms and fail to conform to them.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Gary Paul Gilbert

Cynthia Katsarelis

I think we all get this, Gary. “Queer” is only a useful term for the subset of people identify that way. It is hurtful to many, as one can easily see in the comments section of Huffington Post and the Advocate in the recent brouhaha.

Carolyn, I’ve been openly discriminated against in states that have no protection, “gay/queer isn’t going to work for us…” In states with potential protection, they are far more cagey. They simply interview/audition people with much lower qualifications and pretend I don’t exist, despite a great CV and references from top people in the field in our region. In my state, to file a complaint, it seems like you have to have a job from which you receive unequal treatment. If you’re simply not being hired (along with any other women and LGBTQ people), there doesn’t seem to be a legal recourse. I’m in a field where they can always resort to “fit” and it seems that no gay people or women “fit” in the entire region, or much of the country (some exceptions).

It wears on the soul. It wears terribly, even if the economic consequences are merely difficult rather than dreadful. It makes me appreciate the church for supporting my marriage. But I’m feeling pushed out of some community by those who insist on using “queer” as an umbrella term (again, I don’t mind that others self identify that way and I’m happy to include Q in LGBTQI). I need a safer place than that, and this need isn’t respected in some circles.

Cynthia Katsarelis

No Geoff, you are completely wrong. “Queer” only covers some lesbians, some gay men, some bisexuals, etc. It is NOT an umbrella term.

No matter how much academia wants to force it to be a term “reclaimed,” too many of us reject it and find it hurtful and as offensive as “faggot.”

There was a recent brouhaha on Huffington Post, the Advocate, and Integrity USA. The majority of voices REJECT “queer” as an umbrella term and are very, very clear that under no circumstances does it include us.

“Queer” excludes me. It doesn’t include me. And the arrogant insistence that it includes me because I’m a lesbian is driving me away from what was a “safe” community. I am losing my safe community because you and others INSIST that it’s an umbrella term when it is not. That is OPPRESSION and there’s no place for it in an inclusive, social justice movement.

The alphabet soup may be inelegant, but it is inclusive.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

So should we not write GLBTQ?

Is ‘Q’ not acceptable to ‘G’ and ‘L’?

Cynthia Katsarelis

Thank you for explaining it, David.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

So, can one write GBLTQ and not offend a G/L Cynthia?

That was my question.

Gary Paul Gilbert

In Queer Theory, the point of “queer” was to destabilize heteronormativity, taking identities to their limits and seeing them as a series of performances–to paraphrase Judith Butler. To identify as queer would seem to be an oxymoron unless it is read as an ironic gesture or strategy. In ordinary language, however, it is sometimes just another identity, which opens it up to charges of claiming to represent everyone. Words mean different things in different contexts.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Cynthia Katsarelis

The problem, Gary, is than me and many others do not identify as “queer.” We all get the academic argument, and we find it completely unacceptable. To me it is like faggot or any racist epithet. You wouldn’t use a racist epithet to a person of color and explain to them that they shouldn’t feel upset because you’re just being ironic.

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